Bahraini authorities ordered an independent newspaper to stop publishing online Monday and said a city hall was set ablaze during clashes between opposition protesters and police.
The suspension of Al-Wasat’s online operations followed a spike in anti-government protests led by the country’s Shia majority that began Saturday. The demonstrations accelerated after three men convicted of bombing police were put to death Sunday.
Opposition activists allege that the condemned men were tortured and see their executions — the first since 2010 — as inflammatory and politically motivated.
Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority issued an edict barring Al-Wasat from publishing online Monday evening and said the ban would remain in place until further notice. The ban did not appear to affect the print edition of the paper.
It said it acted “due to repeated publication of material inciting division in the community, jeopardizing national unity and disrupting public peace,” according to a brief statement carried on the official Bahrain News Agency.
The paper’s editor in chief, Mansoor al-Jamri, suggested the decision had taken the paper by surprise.
“We’re trying to get information from the authorities on their points of concern,” he said.
Al-Wasat is widely seen as the only independent newspaper in Bahrain. It has been ordered shut twice since an Arab Spring-inspired uprising against the Sunni-led government erupted in 2011.
Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said the blaze at the Northern City Hall appeared intentional and was contained by firefighters.
Hundreds protested Sunday over the three Shia men put to death by firing squad over the 2014 bombing that killed two Bahraini policemen and an Emirati officer. Some youth threw gasoline bombs and clashed with police into the night. Police fired tear gas and birdshot.
Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base.